Walt Disney once said, “I would rather entertain and hope that people learn, than educate and hope that they’re entertained. ”
That statement, made years before EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World Resort was created or even conceived, became the standard by which Walt’s successors designed the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow he had envisioned.
Since its opening day on October 1, 1982, EPCOT Center has brought a whole new meaning to the term “Theme Park.” Its Future World of exhibits and ride-through attractions celebrate everything from imagination to communication, energy to agriculture, while its World Showcase of films, exhibits, restaurants, and shops bring faraway lands together.
EPCOT Center is actually a wonderful combination of permanent World’s Fair, ever-evolving science laboratory and tribute to creative and technological innovation.
Though plans for EPCOT were first announced publicly in 1975, Walt had been thinking about such an endeavor even before his company began working on the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. As John Hench, now Senior Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI), recalls, “I was at my desk, answering mail, and Walt walked by and stopped. He asked, ‘How’d you like to work on a city of the future?’ Then he didn’t give me a chance to say anything, like ‘Wow!’ — he just walked on by.”
Shortly before his death in December 1966, Walt filmed a presentation directed to industry and to Florida residents in which he outlined his concept for EPCOT. This would be a “living, breathing community,” he said, where people resided and the family unit was the key, but would also serve as a showcase for American ingenuity and enterprise.
Logistics dictated the eventual elimination of the project’s residential aspect. When the Company led by Chairman and CEO E. Cardon (Card) Walker and Chairman of the Executive Committee Donn Tatum, did move forward — after the Magic Kingdom Theme Park had firmly established Walt Disney World as a tourist destination — they focused first on a different kind of showcase.
"In those days, WED (now WDI) was trying to sort out what they thought Walt would want to do,” says Disneyland Executive Vice President Norm Doerges, who served as Vice President of EPCOT Center until his move west in 1990. “The World Showcase seemed an easier concept to come to grips with. We developed it as a project separate from EPCOT, that would be in the parking lot of the Magic Kingdom, and we were trying to sell the concept to potential (foreign) participants. But their support was not forthcoming because it was an American market so there was little in it for them.”
- The Walt Disney World Story - Part 1: Bringing Walt’s Last Dream to Life
- The Walt Disney World Story - Part 2: The First Year
- The Walt Disney World Story - Part 3: Epcot Center: Dawn of a New Disney Era
- The Walt Disney World Story - Part 4: Twenty Years and Still Growing